As everyone knows, an Avel (mourner) is still required to give Mishloach Manos, but is not meant to be given Mishloach Manos. What is the essential difference? Clearly, an Avel is still someone who must do good deeds, including Chesed (kindness) and acts of goodness. This is claimed to not only be good for the Avel, so to speak, but is something the Neshama (my father, הכ”מ) gets an Aliya/Nachas from. So far so good.
We can understand why someone should not be involved in giving to an Avel. Likely, the Mishloach Manos is (meant to be) a contribution to the Avel’s Purim Seuda. The Avel’s Purim Seuda, though, in a year of Aveylus, isn’t what it normally is. One isn’t supposed to go (based on the Ramoh) to someone else’s Seuda. Rather, it should be a relatively “quiet” and home-bound one, much like the rest of Aveylus of the 12 months, which is characterised by an avoidance of more public modes of enjoyment and celebration.
An interesting question arises in regards to a family Seuda. What is the Halacha, if customarily, the wider family, including siblings, who are also Aveylim, get together each year for Purim Seuda under normal circumstances. Should they also get together in a year of Aveylus? You can always argue that the “Niftar would prefer that”, but it’s not that simple. Like many laws of Aveylus, one may well get two different answers from two Rabonim. We also say that הלכה כמיקל באבילות. There is also a fair amount of grey area. If you open up a Nitei Gavriel you can probably find every type of a הנהגה under the sun, but that doesn’t really help when you seek direction and clear Psak. Telling me that in the community of “bochunovich” they did XYZ doesn’t offer Psak. Nitei Gavriel is a wonderful “encyclopedia”. It’s often difficult to “pasken” from unless of course one is from “bochunovich”.
So, I was pretty convinced that it should be okay: Aveylim with Aveylim at a Purim Seuda, without the usual dancing and banter, what could be wrong. I asked the question to מו’’ר Rav Hershel Schachter, and he replied that it is better during the year of Aveylus, that the Aveylim have their seudos individually in their own homes.
Purim, being a Yom Tov from the Rabbis, somehow places itself in this Halachic “no man’s land”. It’s not a Torah Yom Tov, nor is it a normal Yom Chol. You are meant to drink, be merry, etc to a level of עד דלא ידע. This means that although it’s a happy day with certain Mitzvos it’s perhaps not quite as important enough in terms of Toraitic שמחה. It’s a day of perhaps “wanton” happiness for want of a better word. This isn’t the natural domain of the Avel. Instead, they should partake of this סעודה meal at their own home with one’s direct family, in the first instance.
Ironically, as I delivered some Mishloach Manos today, I was pleased in a macabre way that some people could not give me Mishloach Manos in return. You know the scene, you give, and then they scurry out the back and give you one “in return”. This time, I had pure giving. I was the initiator. I didn’t need anything in return (thank God). It might sound weird, but that’s how I felt. I actually got some strange comfort out of it.